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Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for outlining the purpose of this statutory instrument. We on these Benches have no particular problems with the order. As a generality there is consensus that the statutory status of the IBRC--albeit that it will effectively operate in limbo--should be ended, but that before its abolition the council should continue to be subject to efficient administration. However, I have a question for the noble Lord. Is not the problem of statutorily required appointments to the IBRC a problem of the Government's own making?
Having sought--albeit subject to the decision of another place and the usual channels--to subject the Financial Services and Markets Bill to the procedure of carry over, such anomalies as that thrown up by this order were bound to occur. That being so, will the Government in any future use of the carry over procedure do their utmost to ensure that these kinds of problems either do not arise or are ironed out before the event?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, is not a lawyer and therefore I can make the following comment without fear of causing offence. We understand that it is always possible to find lawyers to serve on these bodies but it is not always possible to find accountants. That is the reason why the provision for accountants and for policy holder representatives is slightly more flexible. I doubt whether it will make any difference in practice.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].
The Jobseeker's Allowance Amendment (New Deal) Regulations will help to open up the current New Deal education and training opportunities to a broader range of long-term unemployed jobseekers. Currently, the JSA regulations provide that people aged 25 and over who have been in receipt of JSA for a two-year qualifying period may be treated as available for and actively seeking employment while they undertake an education and training opportunity. We propose to provide for periods in receipt of National Insurance contribution credits only, as an unemployed person, or autocredits for those aged 60 to 64, to count towards the two-year qualifying period. These amendments will ensure more consistent treatment across long-term unemployed jobseekers and will enable more people to benefit from the support which is on offer to help them get into work.
The Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations serve three purposes. First, they correct a defect in the current regulations and ensure that people in receipt of incapacity benefit who are found capable of work by the All Work Test, are able to move smoothly onto JSA. The decision disentitling a person to incapacity benefit is effective from the day on which it is made, but the notification may take several days to reach the claimant. The claims and payments regulations currently allow the Secretary of State to backdate a JSA claim to the day after the final day of incapacity benefit. However, the JSA claim for that period is still likely to fail because the claimant was not available or actively seeking employment, since he did not know he should have been. The amendment regulations provide that the claimant may be treated as satisfying the labour market conditions in JSA for the period covered by the administrative backdating.
Secondly, the regulations correct another defect and, in doing so, make sure, as originally intended, that prisoners who are released from detention and then claim JSA are given a short period to readjust to normal life. The regulations provide that ex-prisoners shall be treated as actively seeking employment during the period of up to six days at the start of their claim, before the beginning of their first full benefit week.
Thirdly, these regulations make a technical amendment which is necessary as a result of the mergers since 1994 of certain training and enterprise councils with chambers of commerce to form chambers of commerce, training and enterprise. These regulations allow us to put right defects in the current rules. I beg to move.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the third Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I propose to seek your Lordships' approval for a further set of New Deal regulations. These will allow the pilots we introduced last November to continue. As many noble Lords will know, under the Jobseekers Act, we have the power to introduce pilots by affirmative regulations, but those regulations may last for only a maximum of 12 months. The regulations we are debating today will renew those introduced last November and will come into force on 29th November 1999 and continue for a further 12 months.
I would like to explain briefly what we are trying to achieve with these pilots, their content and the progress we are making. The New Deal pilots for people aged 25 and over are an important part of our welfare-to-work strategy. We introduced the pilots in November 1998. They build on the existing national programme for people over 25, and are aimed at people who have been unemployed for 12 to 18 months. They provide a more intensive period of support designed to help people into employment and to improve their employability. We are testing new ways of helping unemployed people aged over 25 into work, in order to inform the future development of our support for this group.
When we introduced the pilots last year we made clear that we intended them to run for two years, with the last entrants in May 2000. Our policy intention is unchanged. These regulations simply renew those which were introduced last year to support the pilots and the amending measures which were introduced in April 1999 to allow pilot participants to begin setting themselves up in business while claiming jobseeker's allowance. A number of minor technical changes have been made to reflect the new arrangements for decision-making and appeals and for the introduction of the working family tax credit and the disabled person's tax credit. We have also added a transitional provision to ensure that participants fall within an uninterrupted regulatory framework.
There are 28 pilots across Great Britain and one covering the whole of Northern Ireland, which between them will help 90,000 people. They are aimed principally at people who have been unemployed for 18 months or more, but in some of the pilots we are testing the impact of offering that help earlier to those at, or beyond, the 12-month point of unemployment. In four areas we are also testing the effectiveness of allowing people at a particular disadvantage in the labour market earlier access to the pilots. The pilots are delivered by a variety of public and private sector organisations.
The design of the pilots is intended to allow for the widest possible scope for tailoring help to individual need and local circumstances. Pilot participants initially enter a gateway period of advisory support and other help to find work. Those who do not find work in this gateway period are then required to take part in intensive jobsearch alongside other activity; for example, work experience or job-focused training, for up to 13 weeks. During that time they will receive a grant of up to £163;200 paid over and above their JSA and other benefits. Those who do not find work by the end of this period are then offered further help in the follow-through period.
The renewing regulations I am proposing today support the pilots in a number of ways. They prescribe the categories of people who will be required to participate in the New Deal pilots, and the impact on their benefit of not participating. They ensure that the payments they may receive as part of a pilot, including self-employed earnings, will not affect their benefit.
It is still too early to be making any assessment of the impact the pilots are having. The Government have put in place an evaluation strategy which will measure the impact of the pilots on those participating in them compared with people outside the pilots. That comparison will enable us to judge the added value of the pilots but the main outputs from the evaluation will not be available until next year.
Our initial statistics indicate that up to the end of August over 54,000 people have entered the pilots and that at least 7,500 have already found work, while the majority is still benefiting from the intensive support that is available.
The number moving into work each month continues to grow. Those initial figures are encouraging but, as I said, the true test will be the proper evaluation. I believe that these pilots are crucial in helping us to determine the shape of future support for adult unemployed people. The regulations give us the power to continue with the pilots so that we have sufficient experience upon which to draw. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 21st October be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Blackstone.)
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